Like him or not, Bill Maher, like Drew Barrymore, is taking a stand.
As Maher wrote on X, which used to be Twitter, which used to be…sorry I can’t follow all of that:
“Real Time is coming back, unfortunately, sans writers or writing. It has been five months, and it is time to bring people back to work,”
“I love my writers; I am one of them, but I’m not prepared to lose an entire year and see so many below-the-line people suffer so much.” In solidarity, Maher claims he will honor the spirit of the strike by not using writers or written segments, like his usual front-of-show monologue.
This is not the first time Maher has come under fire for his stand on the Writers Guild of America (WGA) Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) strike that has pretty much shut down film and TV production for the past few months. On his Club Random broadcast of a few weeks ago, he had this to say:
“What I find objectionable about the philosophy of the strike [is] it seems to be, they have really morphed a long way from 2007’s strike, where they kind of believe that you’re owed a living as a writer, and you’re not. This is showbusiness. This is the make-or-miss league.”
With the little I know of showbusiness, being a fantastically successful unsuccessful professional writer and musician, I feel Maher is right. Writers are not owed a living; no one who tries to make their living in the ‘arts’ is. Furthermore, it’s my opinion that nobody is ‘owed’ a living in any field.
I remember hearing older rock stars bemoaning the COVISS shutdown (yes, I know I spelled COVID wrong; that’s just my attempt to mock the virus that I feel laid waste to our culture because we let it) that they couldn’t go out and tour. Wa, wa wa. Be happy that you had the life you had making records, touring, and sucking up your fan’s cash and adoration. You are not owed that living just because you were lucky/talented enough for a time to make a living at your art. Sure, COVISS hit you…but it hit everybody and frankly, people buying your music or coming to see your ridiculously-priced shows don’t do this so much when money is tight, as it has been these past few years. If you think a Madonna is feeling the pinch (and in fairness, I didn’t read about Madge complaining during COVISS) imagine what it has been like for the ordinary Joe or Jill. Sorry, but maybe artists have to do something else in trying times.
Oh, God forbid.
It’s the same I feel with writers, actors, etc. If one chooses a risky profession to begin with, and if you happened to have made a modicum of money from it, be thankful.
I’m not saying the demands of the strike are not valid; sure, some are. But with Maher, Barrymore, and even others announced this week coming back (and why isn’t anybody mentioning how “The View”, and “Live With Kelly and Mark,” has been back a while now, aren’t they then ‘scabs’ just like Maher and Barrymore are being called?…just asking) they are not so much as scabs as they are employers putting a good amount of their staff back to work.
As Maher went on to say:
“Despite some assistance from me, much of the staff is struggling mightily. We all were hopeful this would come to an end after Labor Day, but that day has come and gone, and there still seems to be nothing happening. I love my writers; I am one of them, but I’m not prepared to lose an entire year and see so many below-the-line people suffer so much.”
Sure, I’m not saying Maher’s attempt here is completely altruistic, and, in fact Maher isn’t claiming this. His show is important to his livelihood, and he is moving forward to protect that fact; having the power to do something about it, he is. And I think a smart guy like Maher has got to wonder, as another semi-smart guy, me is doing the same: what will be the state of network late night talk shows if the strike stretches on much longer?
Let’s face it, we are a very unique mammal in that, although we can surely miss our past and pine for comforts taken from us, we are ever so adaptable and quickly forget so much of what we miss simply because life has to move on. And time and again it has been proven we move on rather rapidly when given an alternative to that which we once thought we couldn’t live without. Especially, as we often come to find, how stifling that something we are missing has really become over the years, something we just stuck with out of habit.
Such is the case, I feel, we will find the longer talk shows, sitcoms and movies are denied us. If we have to, we will find new faves in independently produced fare and maybe something bigger and better than the talk shows we gave grow used to.
Either way, we will keep on keeping on, I’m sure.
Ralph Greco, Jr. is the devilishly clever nom de plume of professional writer/musician Ralph Greco who lives in the wilds of suburban New Jersey. He is also a podcast co-host, but as everyone has a podcast these days, this fact is of very little consequence.